Bottom of the Purse Candy
“Bottom of the purse candy.” When I heard it I knew exactly what it was and I laughed out loud. During the school year I drive the church van to the middle school to pick up eight 6th and 7th graders for “Transform,” the after school mentoring program sponsored by my church.
I arrived at the church to get the name tags, the van keys, and the snack for the kids to eat on the way back to the church. The snack is different every day and it is always a standing joke with Carol, the church secretary, about what the kids will say about the day’s snack. This day it was cheese sticks, and a cup of cheerios, and horn of plenty shaped crunchies, with a few marshmallows thrown in. Immediately I pictured cereal scattered about the van after the kids disembark at the church.
At the school I drive along the parked row of cars of parents waiting for their kids to my designated parking space where the curb is yellow for no parking. Ah, but I have special permission to park there by the assistant principal who happens to go to my church. Most days the space is open, but once in awhile there is a presupposing mom there talking on her cell phone. I know better than to confront women like these so I find another place.
I usually get there about five minutes early and wait for the kids. By one's and two’s they start arriving. Kyle is always the first and takes his place at shotgun. Without a hello, howdy, or even a grunt he leans over to see what the snack is.
“Hi Kyle,” I say, “would you like a snack?”
He takes the cup, and hesitates at the cheese. “Is the cheese slimy,” he asks.
“I don’t know.”
He takes it thinking that if he doesn’t like it maybe he can trade it for a cup of cereal; if he’s lucky and someone likes slimy cheese better than cereal.
The others start arriving, Jorge, Fernando, the twins, Nayla and Kayla, Aaliyah, the girl who never wants to be there, Jon, and Devin, oh yes Devin. Discussion is lively as commodity trades are being made and we are ready to go.
“Everyone have their seatbelt on,” I ask looking around at Devin?
“Please put your seatbelt on Devin,” no response. “Ok, we can go when Devin has his seatbelt on,” I say, depending on the peer pressure around him to get his seatbelt on.
With Devin strapped in we head out; Kyle’s attention split between the conversation in the back and the open window to his right. I watch him carefully when we approach pedestrians as he likes to say nonsensical things to them as we pass. A real no-no; he now controls himself because I can lock his window up.
The conversation turned to the marshmellows. There were comments about them being hard, or sticky, and the crumbs from the crunchies sticking to them.
“It reminds me of bottom of the purse candy,” Kyle blurts out, “ the kind my grandmother always has for us.”
My mind flashed to my childhood and I knew exactly what he was talking about. I laughed and asked him to describe “bottom of the purse candy.”
“Well,” he began, smiling because I showed humor and interest in what he had to say. “I don’t see my grandmother often, but she always wants to have something for us so she puts candy in her purse. When it is in there for awhile it sometimes comes out of the wrapper and gets stuff on it.”
“You mean like lint,” I ask.
“Yeah, I guess, I’m not sure what’s on it, but I take it anyway.”
The conversation continued about hard or sticky marshmallows, and slimy cheese. Mixed in were a few words, one in particular that is in common use in today’s world but unacceptable while I am the van driver. The complaints about the snack and the words to describe it became so bad that I started a lecture on gratefulness and bad language. Punishment is pretty limited so it is important not to threaten anything you can’t do. The snack, yes the snack, I think. The snack is pretty important to these kids even if it is slimy or sticky.
“You know there are some nice ladies like your grandmothers who come to the church early to prepare snacks for you, and they do it for no other reason than that they love and care about you.”
“Yeah, I like old ladies; my grandmother is nice,” said Jorge.
There was common agreement in the back and it got quiet.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “when we get to the church I’ll tell them that you all don’t want a snack tomorrow.”
A chorus of no’s came from the back.
“Oh,” I said, “how many don’t want a snack tomorrow - raise your hand?”
No hands in the rearview mirror. “Ok, how many want a snack?”
All the hands went up. I love these wild little Jr. high kids and the younger ones that walk from the nearby elementary school to come to “Transform.” They get help with their homework, a snack, recreation time, and most importantly bible stories and they hear the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Transform will be revving up again this fall. If you would like to be involved contact me at email@example.com